A lot has changed since Jay Weinstein started at EisnerAmper 28 years ago.
“Back then we worked 60 hours a week and didn’t say anything to the partners other than, ‘Thank you for allowing me to work 60 hours a week,’ ” he said. And he wasn’t necessarily joking.
“Times have changed. And for the better.”
Weinstein is now the partner-in-charge of the company’s recently consolidated office in the MetroPark section of Iselin. There are more than 400 employees in the building that bears the company’s name — and he and the rest of the office management team makes sure each of them feels like they are an owner.
“We’ve had pretty good retention over the past couple of years,” he said. “Our turnover has been well below the industry average, and I think that’s because of the way that we treat people and the esteem in which we hold people and the respect we give them.”
Makes sense. Even if the tax codes that the employees navigate aren’t always as predictable and precise.
“There’s not a lot of logic to it,” he said with a laugh.
Weinstein sat down with NJBIZ to talk about the industry and EisnerAmper.
School ties: Temple University (B.S. and MBA in economics); Villanova University (master’s)
Family tree: Wife, Butsie; sons Micky (scientist) and Etan (entrepreneur)
Favorite place to go/vacation: Long Beach Island
Giants, Jets, Yankees, Mets: Having grown up in Philly, I’m still a Philly fan in every sport, but let’s say the Jets; they are a client.
Bruce, Bon Jovi, Sinatra or Whitney: Sinatra fan for sure. But it was the Grateful Dead in my youth. It’s an odd combination. When my wife gets in the car and she hears Sinatra she says, “What happened to you?” I fell in love with Sinatra later in life.
What you wanted to be when you were 6: I always wanted to be an accountant. I was keeping ledgers certainly by age 10. The beauty for me is everything sort of fits, everything balances. I always have liked order and accounting provides order or a means to order.
Your passion: Baseball. I have visited 28 of the 30 Major League Baseball stadiums (he’s only missing Colorado and San Diego).
Something about you your co-workers don’t know: I swim almost every day.
Inspiration: Reading books by Ayn Rand: I read her books every year. I love the way they celebrate the heroic nature of people.
NJBIZ: Let’s start with the most topical issue of the day: the presidential primaries. Campaigns have great soundbites on how they are going to change (and solve) all of our tax issues with a simple plan. As someone inside the industry, do you take those talks seriously?
Jay Weinstein: If you look at the history of campaigns, speeches and proposals, and what’s actually been enacted, there’s a great disparity. We don’t get too excited at this stage. We’ll get more interested as some tangible proposals are actually made and get put forth in Congress.
NJBIZ: And let’s not forget about the soon-to-start gubernatorial campaigns in New Jersey. Candidates will have plenty to say on our not-always-palatable taxes here. When you look at our state taxes, what areas do you think we should be concentrating on?
JW: I think we’ve done a decent job incentivizing tech companies and the pharmaceutical industry. Those are areas that are critical to the state’s success. I think those are two areas where tax policy can be very helpful.
NJBIZ: So you’re good with the large incentive programs we have — that certainly is going to be an issue.
JW: If done right, I think they can be great programs. The state’s truly trying to do that right and be judicious in the credits they give out. When you look at Goya Foods and JPMorgan, I think it has been a benefit. Tax credits have been a big part of Camden’s recent growth and evolution.
The public perception is that we’ve given away billions and billions of dollars, but that’s not true. From an educational standpoint, I think a lot more can be done. Firms such as ours are used to provide assurance that any incentives given out are tied to real benefits for the state and its economy.
Why are we doing this?
Because companies like Mercedes-Benz leave. It’s sad. Great companies which never should have, left this state.
NJBIZ: And when they do, many say it’s the tax structure. Not just for corporations, but their own personal wealth. Is it time to start working on the inheritance tax?
JW: Absolutely. It’s not up to date. It put us at a competitive disadvantage to other states. The amount of wealth that has left the state in the past 10 years is enormous. And here is something that is on everybody’s radar; it needs to be addressed.
NJBIZ: Interestingly enough, one of the biggest industries moving into the state, e-commerce, is not necessarily bringing all the revenue it can. Is it time to look at that industry?
JW: It is. Especially because e-commerce has become such a large part of our economy as a revenue source. If we’re moving revenue from bricks and mortar to e-commerce and the state doesn’t have an opportunity to participate in that, I think it’s detrimental to the state. The whole concept of taxing e-commerce sales is for there to be a level playing field.
NJBIZ: Of course, the other issue we have from businesses is how difficult it still is to do business here. Do you agree?
JW: As somebody who sees a lot of companies and tries to step back a little bit in terms of what’s happening in this state (he says and then pauses). ...
It seems as if there is gridlock in terms of change, which I think is impacting the economy. It seems as if we’re unsure as to how to make change happen.
The governor is running for the presidency, which some feel is impacting the governmental process. It’s a little bit frustrating as a businessperson to see such a great state with such phenomenal people and companies in this position.
I think there’s just a little bit of confusion around the idea of effectuating change given the current environment. It has however been encouraging and inspiring to see people such as Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagno take more of a leading management role in recent months.
NJBIZ: OK, let’s get to your firm. You’re one of the biggest in the state. Why is bigger better?
JW: Specialization. In order to be able to really work with multinational companies, it’s important to have the specialization and resources to handle the complexities they encounter. Putting four offices together in one place as a firm has made a tremendous difference. For us to be able to have almost 400 people in one place in the state, where you can walk down the hall and talk to one of the top specialists in the state, it’s just invaluable to us.
We feel bigger is better. This year in our office here we’re looking at 7-8 percent organic growth, so we’re pretty proud of that and we’re projected next year about the same.
NJBIZ: Let’s take it to a national scale. You’ve recently added offices in Florida and California — what were the reasons behind that?
JW: We’re strategically entering markets that we feel are important to our business. There’s a ton of wealth in Florida; many of our clients have relocated there over the years. We felt we needed to be there. We don’t say, ‘We just want to be in every major city in the country,’ we want to be in the cities that are important to us.
In Sacramento, there was a particular specialty in that office, digital forensics and a forensic lab and other resources that we felt were really important. So we think very carefully and do a limited number of combinations, but they are very strategic.
NJBIZ: Is there any fear of getting too big as a firm?
JW: There can be. Bigger is better, but only if you can maintain your culture. Bigger shouldn’t necessarily mean you lose the core values you’ve worked so hard to develop and sustain. Our core values are truly important to us. We’re serious about them. If somebody violates our core values, they are held accountable.
NJBIZ: Keeping employees happy. Keeping millennials happy. We hear that all the time. EisnerAmper must be doing so, as you are a regular on our Best Places to Work list. How do you keep your employees happy?
JW: Our turnover has been well below the industry average and I think that’s because of the way that we treat people.
Money is obviously something we all need to sustain our families and our livelihood; however, money is usually not the No. 1 reason people go to a place to work or leave a place; it’s the other things. It’s the way that they’re treated. It’s the career opportunities.
This is not an advertisement, this is just a fact. We expend a lot of resources — time and money — making sure people think this is a great place to work, and I think that is why our turnover is less than in other public accounting firms.
NJBIZ: This goes back to your culture. What can the millennial generation expect at EisnerAmper?
JW: The younger people today want work-life balance and that’s a good thing, because maybe that will allow us to retain them in the industry longer. And it doesn’t just apply to millennials. It’s all employees.
We take work-life balance really seriously. Some of things are subtle. If somebody needs to leave, whether it is a manager or staff, if somebody needs to leave at 3 o’clock because their kid has a game, there’s no jokes. It’s not, ‘Oh, banker’s hours,’ because those things are hurtful and we take them very seriously. Those are subtle things that we don’t allow to happen here. And if there are men or women who want an alternative work schedule, we accommodate them. We have over 20 people with alternative work schedule and probably another 20 who unofficially have an alternative work schedule.
NJBIZ: Even if an alternative work schduele is one where work stops?
JW: It goes for your career route, too. If a man or a women wants to take a pause in their career and step back for a little bit, that’s fine. When you’re ready to move forward and unpause your career, that’s great. We’re here for you.
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